Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Walking & Hiking

The parks are best experienced on foot. Only on the trail can you truly respect the mountains for their beauty and power. Whether you're a beginner or an expert, there's a trail for you.

Hiker Safety

Mountain hiking requires you to follow a few common sense tips.

Take proper gear. Bring rain and sun protection (year-round), sturdy footwear, a first-aid kit with blister treatments and maps. 

The parks are best experienced on foot. Only on the trail can you truly respect the mountains for their beauty and power. Whether you're a beginner or an expert, there's a trail for you.

Hiker Safety

Mountain hiking requires you to follow a few common sense tips.

Take proper gear. Bring rain and sun protection (year-round), sturdy footwear, a first-aid kit with blister treatments and maps. 

Don't go alone. Glacier is bear and mountain lion country and not the place to seek solitude. Solo hiking and backpacking is strongly discouraged, but if you must, let someone know when and where you are going and when you plan to return.

Know your limitations. If the trail is steep, figure another hour for every 1,000 feet of elevation. 

Carry water. Streams and lakes may carry Giardia lamblia protozoans, making water unsafe to drink unless boiled, chemically treated or filtered. 

Know where you're going. Check-in with a ranger for directions before starting out.

Backcountry Permits

A backcountry use permit is required for all overnight backcountry camping. A permit can be obtained from: The Apgar Backcountry Permit Center; the St. Mary Visitor Center, Many Glacier, Two Medicine, or Polebridge Ranger Stations; or the Waterton Lakes Visitor Recreation Centre (for trips starting in Goat Haunt or Chief Mountain). At Glacier, there is a $5 per person per night backcountry fee for adults (June through September). Advance reservations are processed starting April 16 for a $30 fee. Please call (406) 888-7800 or from March 15 to October 31, call (406) 888-7859 for more details. Or visit at www.nps.gov/glac/ planyourvisit/backcountry.htm.

At Waterton, a Wilderness Pass is available for a fee. Advance reservations are accepted (up to three months in advance; credit card payment only). For more information, please call (403) 859-5133.

TRAILS OF GLACIER & WATERTON LAKES

Trail of the Cedars (easy)

Trailhead at Avalanche Campground; a 0.7-mile loop; level, wheelchair-accessible trail. 

A pleasant stroll through the old-growth cedar-hemlock forest along Avalanche Creek.

Swiftcurrent Nature Trail (easy)

Trailhead at Grinnell Glacier Trailhead or the south end of Many Glacier Hotel; 2.5 miles; level trail; two to three hours.

This loop trail travels around the lake offering great views of Grinnell and Salamander glaciers, Mount Gould and Grinnell Point.

Red Eagle Lake Trail (easy)

Trailhead at St. Mary 1913 Ranger Station; 15 miles; 200-foot elevation gain; all-day to over-night trip.

Experience an authentic, old buffalo hunter's route that will lead you behind the St. Mary Lake mountains to a network of passes through the peaks. You can camp at the lake (by permit only) before trying one of the higher routes if you want a multi-day adventure. Note: This area burned during the Red Eagle Fire (2006). The scenery has changed, but by hiking through the area, one will see fire ecology first-hand.

Highline Trail (moderate)

Logan Pass to Goat Haunt; 7.6 miles to Granite Chalet Park with a 200-foot climb; 24.4 miles from Granite Park to Goat Haunt includes overnight trip options.

The Highline Trail parallels the Garden Wall (along the Continental Divide). Hard-core hikers can travel the 39.5-mile route north from Logan Pass to Waterton Townsite in Waterton Lakes National Park. (Concession boat available at Goat Haunt.)

Cracker Lake Trail (moderate)

Trailhead at Many Glacier Hotel; 12.2 miles; 1,400-foot elevation gain.

The trail begins by winding through open grasslands and then enters the Canyon Creek Canyon, where the cliffs of Mount Siyeh rise 4,100 feet straight up. (This is also a horse concession trail.)

Sperry Chalet Trail (strenuous)

Trailhead at Lake McDonald Lodge; 6.4 miles to the chalet (one way); 3,400-foot elevation gain; all-day to overnight round-trip.

A fascinating walk through several of Glacier's climate zones, it culminates with a sweeping view from high in a glacial cirque. Hard-core hikers can continue up to the glacier itself. Lodging at Sperry Chalet and camping are available by reservation.

Lakeshore Trail (moderate)

Trailhead at Waterton Townsite; seven miles to Goat Haunt at the southern end of Waterton Lake (one way); gentle slopes; all-day round-trip.

Many folks like to walk this trail in one direction and return by riding the Waterton tour launches. The launches run five times a day from mid-May to mid-September. There are excellent views of Waterton Lake. Hikers intending to ride the tour boat part-way should buy their tickets in advance and notify the boat company.

Bertha Lake Trail (easy to strenuous)

Trailhead is located at the south end of Waterton Townsite; eight miles; 2,000-foot elevation gain; two to six hours.

This trail leaves the Waterton Lake shore and enters a Douglas fir forest. The first hour of walking will take you to a magnificent overlook view of Upper Waterton Lake, then on to Lower Bertha Falls. From the falls, a steeper climb takes you past Upper Bertha Falls to Bertha Lake. Most hikers go as far as Lower Bertha Falls, which is a great spot for a picnic.

Carthew/Alderson Trail (strenuous)

Trailhead at Cameron Lake; 12 miles to Waterton Park (one way); initial uphill climb with 2,255-foot elevation gain followed by a 3,360-foot descent; all-day round-trip.

Panoramic views of many mountain lakes, including Carthew and Cameron lakes, and surrounding peaks make this trail outstanding. A shuttle service from Waterton Park to Cameron Lake leaves Tamarack Mall at 9 a.m. during the summer season. It costs a minimum of $24 CAN, or $6 CAN each for four or more riders.